In any legal case it is very important to establish a true partnership between the law firm and the expert witness. This partnership facilitates an effective, balanced team with both technical and legal knowledge. This will provide the client with the most cost-effective solution and best chance for a favorable outcome during trial or arbitration.
Becht has provided expert resources for more than 100 legal cases on a world-wide basis. We have 1500 refining, petrochemical and nuclear industry experts available to support legal, engineering, maintenance and other matters. We make every effort to assure the expert has the right experience in the subject, operates under a strict non-disclosure agreement and has the interpersonal skills to be effective in deposition and trial proceedings. Our goal is to form a partnership to thoroughly prepare and support the legal team.
This partnership can be enhanced through frequent video conferencing as well as on site meetings with the attorneys to establish lines of communication. If the case involves an incident at a plant or manufacturing facility, a joint meeting with the attorneys, expert and plant personnel has been valuable to assure everyone is aligned.
Examples of past and ongoing cases include:
- Crane and rigging incidents
- Fatal industrial accidents
- Plant fire and explosion incidents
- Equipment failures and performance problems
- Plant performance guarantee issues
- Process Safety Management violations
- OSHA violations
- Construction cost overrun and delay claims
- Patent infringement
- Copyright infringement
Below are brief excerpts from some recent cases:
- An insurance claim related to a plant fire and explosion that destroyed a significant part of the plant and damaged numerous pressure vessels and other equipment. The insurance company claimed many of the pressure vessels were fit for service based on a minimal external inspection and proposed a lowball settlement. Becht experts worked closely with plant personnel and developed inspection requirements based on API and ASME codes and prepared repair vs. replacement cost estimates. At the end of the process the insurance company awarded our client a settlement several hundred million dollars over the initial proposal. Obviously, the return on investment for our input into this legal case was enormous.
- A construction cost dispute where the cost of the project overran by over 60%. The engineering and construction contracts had been issued to separate companies on a time and materials basis and the owner took full responsibility for procurement of all major equipment including schedule compliance and fabrication accuracy. The owner did not have an adequate team in place to manage this complex execution strategy. This poorly thought out strategy caused construction delays when engineering was late and there were equipment delivery and quality issues. The owner was advised recovery would be difficult but elected to proceed with the costly case despite recommendations.
- A failure to pay claim involving construction of a nominal $30MM plant. Since the scope was somewhat vague and the contract was done on a time and materials basis, a contract was put in place where any cost overrun would be shared 25% to the contractor’s account and 75% to the owner’s account. Assuming the contractor performed with the appropriate standard of care, the contract was highly favorable to the owner. This is because the owner would receive 100% value for only 75% cost. The plant ended up costing $36MM, however the owner refused to pay their share of the cost overrun claiming it was due to contractor error and inefficiency. Based on a strong and open partnership with the contractor and contractor’s law firm, we were able to demonstrate the contractor met the standard of care and the case was settled favorably for the contractor. This could not have happened without open dialog and access to the plant, contractor and plant personnel as well as engineering and construction records.
- A fire and explosion in a chemical facility resulted in a fatality, critical injuries and offsite property damage case. The attorneys had excellent technical, as well as, legal skill and shared all appropriate information. Numerous meetings were held to assure alignment and understanding of the case and we were able to review significant documentation and depositions to formulate the expert and rebuttal reports. Pre-deposition coaching and discussions were effective and we were able to build a strong case for our client.
It is also critical that the expert have a high level of competency. Becht pledges to fully vet our experts we propose for a case. We have been involved in cases where the opposing expert lacked the appropriate technical depth. Since we are a partner in the case, we are able to coach the attorney to ask pointed questions to the opposing expert to challenge credibility.
- Two examples come to mind. The first was an individual claiming to be an expert in the ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code. During testimony he was unable to describe the basic parameters to determine vessel wall thickness; in fact, the “expert” didn’t even know within an order of magnitude the physical size of the code. In another case the supposed expert testified that metallic and non-metallic piping behavior was essentially the same despite clear written differentiation in the Code (which he was asked to read aloud in court). In both cases the “expert” lost credibility.
Becht Expert Witness Process and Experience
Becht has a large portfolio of industry experts with more than 30 years’ experience with top operating companies in the refining, petrochemical and nuclear industries. We have been involved as experts for a wide range of cases in the United States, Canada, Europe and the Asia Pacific region. For more information on our litigation and expert witness process and experience please contact Becht.